2011-09-02 / Top Stories

Richards: Issues Remain On Evacuating Rockaway

By Miriam Rosenberg

Despite what Mayor Michael Bloomberg termed “a well-organized job of evacuating the Rockaways” as Hurricane Irene neared, issues still remain, according to Donovan Richards, the chief of staff for City Councilman James Sanders Jr., who represents the eastern end of the peninsula.

Richards traveled among the three evacuation centers used by Rockaway residents – York College, Hillcrest High School and John Adams High School – on Saturday evening. He gave Bloomberg good marks for getting the word out about the need to evacuate. More needed to be done, however, Richards said.

“We had some minor issues,” he argued. That there were miscommunications on getting people back to the Rockaways after the order was lifted on Sunday, Richards said.

“We worked with the Department of Transportation and got the problems resolved,” said the chief of staff, adding that the office of Emergency Management (OEM) has to go back and visit the question of evacuating the Rockaways.

While the OEM plan has people using trains, the MTA shut down the transit system at noon on Saturday. Richards pointed out that “If the trains are shut down, as they were, we need buses.”

He said that, by his count, forty percent stayed behind despite the mandatory evacuation order.

“We have to figure how to get those people out in 24, 48 hours. I don’t think [the MTA] was prepared with buses for those who wanted to leave.”

The city’s public housing agency, NYCHA, delayed its original deadline to turn off the elevators and boilers in its buildings from noon on Saturday to 5 p.m. the same day.

“We still had seniors, people thinking [they might leave] the last minute,” said Richards, who, he added, did just that.

Richards said the 101 Precinct notified the Councilman’s office at approximately 6:45 p.m. on Saturday evening that there were people waiting to be evacuated at C-Town Supermarket, located on Cornaga and Mott Avenues.

“We did get buses,” said Richards. “We definitely need to talk of opening the bus depot in Rockaway in case of a storm. To me this was a test run. I think we have a lot more work to do. Working with Ready Rockaway and the CERT teams we need to sit down with OEM … [to see] where we can improve.”

Richards also urged residents with flood damage to contact the Councilman’s office so they can be helped in getting reimbursement for losses.

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